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Many things can trigger allergies. The most common are pollen, dust mites, mold, animal dander, insect stings, latex, and certain food and medications.

You may think you know what the problem is -- your friend’s cat, certain plants, those dust “bunnies” under your bed. That's a start, and by all means, avoid something that bothers you.

But it also helps to keep notes on your symptoms -- when they start, how long they last, and whatever seems to bring them on. If it's hard to tell what's causing them, or if they become too hard for you to handle on your own, see a doctor about getting allergy tests. The tests will help pinpoint exactly what your triggers are. 

Here are things you need to know about the 8 most common culprits.


1. Pollen

Many people call it “hay fever,” but pollen from many different plants can trigger an allergy. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy and watery eyes.

Treatments in order of use include:

  • Salt water nose rinses
  • Steroid nasal sprays  
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants that you either take by mouth or as a nasal spray
  • Allergy shots or tablets (immunotherapy)

Do this:

  • Stay indoors on windy days or when pollen counts are high.
  • Keep windows closed. Use an air conditioner if you need to.
  • Don’t hang clothes out to dry when pollen fills the air.


2. Dust Mites

These critters are so tiny you can’t see them without a microscope. Symptoms are similar to those caused by a pollen allergy, but they often happen year round instead of just during certain seasons.

Treatment may include medications such as steroid nasal sprays, antihistamines, or decongestants.

Do this:

  • Put dust mite covers over mattresses, pillows, and box springs.
  • Use hypoallergenic pillows.
  • Wash sheets weekly in hot water.
  • Keep all areas of your home, especially the bedroom, free of stuff that collects dust, such as stuffed animals, curtains, and carpet.


3. Mold

Molds are tiny fungi with spores that float in the air like pollen. They thrive in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms and in piles of leaves or grass.